A friend of mine happened to be reading The Big Book of Small House Designs: 75 Award-Winning Plans for Your Dream House, All 1,250 Square Feet or Less because he and his wife want to build a small guest house on their property. As we happened to be drinking juice from glass bottles while he told me of his plans, I suggested he build a bottle house. Turns out he’d never heard of bottle houses, and I can’t imagine he’s the only one.
Bottle houses are pretty much what they sound like, namely houses that use empty glass bottles (or jars) in their construction. However, the hallmark of the bottle house is that the glass bottles that provide substance and interest to the walls are highly visible and, in the nicest bottle houses, arranged by color in decorative patterns. Basically, glass bottles are stacked in a binding material like concrete, sometimes packed quite closely together. Other binders might be adobe, sand, stucco, clay, plaster, or mortar.
In some cases, the bottles project into a space like in the house above, but in other bottle houses, the bottles are doubled up in the wall so you see the bottom of a partial bottle on the outside wall and the bottom of another bottle on the inside wall, creating a stained glass effect. The less binder you use, the more your bottle wall ended up being a bottle window. Why build a bottle house? Easy-to-find and possibly free building materials, for one thing. And you can pat yourself on the back for recycling in an unusual way. Plus, according to Wikipedia, “When the bottles are filled with a (dark) liquid, or other dark material, the wall can function as a thermal mass, absorbing solar radiation during the day and radiating it back into the space at night, thus dampening diurnal temperature swings.”
Bottle houses seem to be found most commonly in hotter, drier climates, perhaps because of their ability to regulate the internal temperature of a home, though there are bottle houses and bottle sheds and bottle structures all over the world. Some are made of beer and soda bottles, some older bottle houses are made of bottles that held old timey things like Jhostetters’ Stomach Bitters, and there’s even one bottle house made from discarded embalming fluid bottles!
I go back and forth with regard to my opinion of these most interesting structures. On one hand, they are kind of cool looking, especially when the bottles or jars are arranged in an appealing pattern. But when they’re incorporated into a more traditional home design, a bottle wall can look tacky or gimmicky. Of course, you can’t argue with the price or the DIY friendliness of bottle houses. What do you think? Are bottle houses a yay or a nay?
(Images via: 1, 2, 3)